Even though the next session of the Kentucky legislature is months away, debate on whether to legalize medical marijuana is already underway.
Legislators heard Friday from the law enforcement community and physicians.
State Sen. Perry Clark, whose proposal last year never got out of committee, has promised to keep introducing medical marijuana legislation until his fellow lawmakers see the light.
But he has plenty of hurdles to jump before that happens.
“Cannabis is medicine,” Clark said.
Medical marijuana is legal in 25 states, and Clark wants Kentucky to be next. He argues that no one has ever died from cannabis. Clark contends that misconceptions and false information are being disseminated by opponents.
“In general say their biggest concern increase cannabis use among teens. There is mountains of evidence that this is not going on,” Clark said.
Mickey Hatmakers, who heads the Kentucky Narcotics Officers Association, calls it a getaway drug.
“It is very clear in the states where cannabis has been legalized for medical purposes, marijuana use by 12 to 17-year-olds is the highest,” Hatmaker said.
Because medical marijuana is expected be a hot topic over the next year, the legislative hearing was aimed at getting a head start on the controversy.
UofL researcher Gregory Barnes said the compound CBD in marijuana provides protection from seizures in epilepsy patients.
Jaimie Montalvo, of Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana, said prescribed drugs also have a downside. He has multiple sclerosis.
“As you can imagine, these prescriptions have dozens of side effects liver problems, kidney problems. They cause a lot of issues in our body,” Montalvo said.
A packed house listened to pros and cons.
As of Friday, no bills regarding medical marijuana had been pre-filed for the 2017 Legislature.